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Cutbacks May Stall Trial for Bin Laden In-Law

MANHATTAN (CN) - A federal judge presiding over the charges against Osama bin Laden's son-in-law called it "stunning" that the trial may be delayed by budget cuts.

Defense attorney Martin Cohen said Sulaiman Abu Ghayth's case could be delayed because of deep federal budget cuts known as sequestration. The cuts have caused the federal defenders office to furlough attorneys for 5 1/2 weeks.

Critics of military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay have praised the Obama administration's decision to try Abu Ghayth in Manhattan as a step toward restoring rule of law in counterterrorism.

The indictment against Abu Ghayth accuses him of swearing allegiance to Osama bin Laden in May 2001, but court documents do not explicitly state whether the son-in-law helped plan the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Prosecutors nevertheless believe that bin Laden summoned Abu Ghayth to help al-Qaida hours after terrorist attacks.

Abu Ghayth allegedly agreed and appeared the next morning with bin Laden and his then-deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Speaking on behalf of al-Qaida, Abu Ghayth allegedly warned the United States and its allies that "[a] great army is gathering against you." He went on to call upon "the nation of Islam" to do battle against "the Jews, the Christians and the Americans," according to the indictment.

Nearly two years after bin Laden was killed in a raid on his compound, Abu Ghayth was reportedly arrested after leaving Turkey and sent to New York to face conspiracy charges.

The case, seen a symbol of the fitness of federal courts to prosecute high-profile terrorists, had a couple a couple of hiccups on Monday.

Though the parties convened for scheduling purposes, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan did not set a trial date because of the "moving parts" or "potentially moving parts" the case has in store.

"It's extremely troublesome to contemplate the possibility of a case of this nature being delayed because of sequestration," U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan said at a hearing on Monday. "Let's just leave it at that."

Not leaving it at that, he added, "Stunning."

Cohen, the defense attorney, announced that he intends to file a motion to suppress statements Abu Ghayth made after his arrest.

He also hinted, intriguingly, about another motion to contest the jurisdiction in New York court in accordance with "international law" and the "laws of war."

Though Cohen did not specify that motion further, Daphne Eviatar of Human Rights First speculated that the defense could be trying to move the case to Guantanamo Bay.

Human Rights First has reported that federal courts have been much more effective, and have dealt much tougher sentences, than military commissions at Guantanamo.

The average time from capture to conviction in a military commission is 7.9 years, as opposed to 1.4 years in federal court.

The parties will meet again to discuss pre-trial motions and revisit the scheduling in July.

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